How Do we improve the air quality in our Homes?

 Usually the most effective way to improve indoor air quality is to eliminate individual sources of air pollution or to reduce their emissions. Some sources, like those that contain asbestos, can be sealed or enclosed; others, like gas stoves, can be adjusted to decrease the amount of emissions. In many cases, source control for air quality is also a more cost-efficient approach to protecting indoor air quality than increasing ventilation because increasing ventilation can increase energy costs.

Most home heating and cooling systems, including forced air heating systems, do not mechanically bring fresh air into the house. Opening windows and doors, operating window or attic fans, when the weather permits, or running a window air conditioner with the vent control open increases the outdoor ventilation rate and serves as a simple form of air cleaners. Local bathroom or kitchen fans that exhaust outdoors remove contaminants directly from the room where the fan is located and increase the outdoor air ventilation rate.

It is particularly important to take as many of these steps as possible while you are involved in short-term activities that can generate high levels of pollutants–for example, painting, paint stripping, heating with kerosene heaters, cooking, or engaging in maintenance and hobby activities such as welding, soldering, sanding, model making and gluing.

However, remember that for most indoor air quality problems in the home, source control is the most effective solution.

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Two new regulations affecting Homeowners will increase energy efficiency standards.

Energy Efficiency

Every year, much of the energy the U.S. consumes is wasted through transmission, heat loss and inefficient technology costing American families and businesses money, and leading to increased carbon pollution.   Energy efficiency is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to combat climate change, clean the air we breathe, improve the competitiveness of our businesses and reduce energy costs for consumers.

The Department of Energy is working with universities, businesses and the National Labs to develop new, energy-efficient technologies while boosting the efficiency of current technologies on the market.

Increasing energy efficiency has been a long-awaited mission for The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). This year the DOE launched two new regulations involving air conditioning equipment and water heaters that will increase energy efficiency finally accomplishing these goals.

1.  The first change involves raising efficiency standards for Air Conditioning equipment.

Two-thirds of all homes in the United States have air conditioners. Air conditioners use about 5% of all the electricity produced in the United States, at an annual cost of more than $11 billion to homeowners. As a result, roughly 100 million tons of carbon dioxide are released into the air each year, an average of about two tons for each home with an air conditioner.

Beginning January 1, 2015, new Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) standards will increase from 13 to 14. The higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient a unit is. For those not familiar with the term, SEER is calculated by dividing how much a unit cools by how much energy it uses during a typical cooling season.

There are many other alternatives that provide cooling with less energy use. You might also consider fans, evaporative coolers, or heat pumps as your primary means of cooling. In addition, a combination of proper insulation, energy-efficient windows and doors, day lighting, shading, and ventilation will usually keep homes cool with a low amount of energy use in all but the hottest climates. Although ventilation is not an effective cooling strategy in hot, humid climates, the other approaches can significantly reduce the need to use air conditioning.

2.  The second big change involves water heater replacements. This is an amendment to the  National Appliance Energy Conservation Act known as the 2015 DOE      Final Rule.

When the amendment takes effect on April 16, 2015, the DOE will require higher energy factor ratings on virtually all residential gas, electric, oil and tankless gas water heaters.

Hot water has become essential to our daily lives — from washing hands to cleaning dishes to showering — and quickly adds up to higher energy bills. It comes as no surprise that water heaters account for nearly 17 percent of a home’s energy use, consuming more energy than all other household appliances combined.

We are all guilty of using a little too much hot water in our daily lives — whether it is spending an extra two minutes in the shower, leaving the water running while washing dishes or washing clothes on hot water instead of cold. Taken together, these habits of wasting water add up. So it is no surprise that the average household spends $400-$600 a year on water heating — accounting for 14-18 percent of homeowners’ utility bills.

Homeowners need to be familiar with these new regulations to benefit from them, and avoid difficult and costly decisions in the future regarding energy efficiency standards.